Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar representing the UAE Team Emirates made it into the history books once again, winning the 115th edition of Il Lombardia, the fifth Monument of the season in Bergamo.
Already a winner of Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April and the Tour de France this summer, Pogačar is the first Slovenian to win Il Lombardia and only the second rider ever to achieve such a treble, after Eddy Merckx (1971, 72).
“It’s crazy to finish this season like this”, Pogačar said moments after he beat the local champion Fausto Masnada of the Deceuninck-Quick Step in a two-man sprint.
“First, I thought when I attacked that someone would come with me but it was such a hard race that I guess everyone was waiting for the finale. I knew that Masnada knows these roads really well. Luckily, we had enough of an advantage for the last climb. In this second part of the season, some days I was good, others not, and today was a good day. For me, every victory is important, and especially this one because I’ve been dreaming of racing with the best here in Italy, and now I took victory. It’s crazy.”
Earlier, a star studded peloton rolled from Como towards Bergamo, as the organisers reversed the route of the latest editions and crammed 4,500m of elevation over 239km.
Riders from Team Qhubeka NextHash were the early aggressors with Victor Campenaerts and Mauro Schmid, both stage winners at this year’s Giro d’Italia, among the early attackers. But it took more than 30km of battling for the break to get away on the slopes leading to the church of Madonna del Ghisallo.
Campenaerts was at the front, alongside Mattia Bais (Androni Giocattoli – Sidermec), Domen Novak (Bahrain Victorious), Andrea Garosio (Bardiani-CSF-Faizane), Thomas Champion (Cofidis), Jan Bakelants (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Tim Wellens (Lotto Soudal), Chris Hamilton (Team DSM), Amanuel Ghebreigzabhier (Trek-Segafredo) and Davide Orrico (Vini Zabù).
At the summit, they led by 2’20’’, and their advantage even rose to 6’27’’ on the slopes of the Roncola climb (km 89). Team DSM, Israel Start-Up Nation and Astana-Premier Tech led the chase in the bunch and the gap was back down to under 5 minutes at km 100, and then 3’30’’ on the Berbenno ascent.
As the race entered the last 100km and faced the Dossena climb, the intensity increased again in the peloton, with Deceuninck-Quick Step and Ineos Grenadiers setting a hard pace and then launching their attacks. Eddie Dunbar and Andrea Bagioli were the first on the move.
Fausto Masnada and Pavel Sivakov also kicked, alongside Ben Tulett (Alpecin Fenix) and George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma), before Tao Geoghegan Hart spent a brief stint at the front. The main contenders got back together with Tadej Pogačar’s UAE Team Emirates driving the bunch.
Masnada and Sivakov attacked again on the following slopes of Zambla Alta, this time with Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo Visma), Romain Bardet (Team DSM) and Marc Hirschi (UAE Team Emirates). They were caught again inside the last 70km but the peloton was slimming down, as well as the breakaway and their lead, down to under 1 minute. The last survivors of the early break were eventually caught with 57km to go.
Attackers went with all guns blazing on the final major ascent of the day, the Passo di Gandia. Ineos Grenadiers attacked again, as did former winner Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), and Pogačar surged to the front with 36km remaining. As he went over the top (31.8km to go), he had a 35’’ lead to the chasing group, with Masnada riding in between.
The Italian bridged the gap at the bottom of the downhill, with 16km to go. Both he and the Slovenian tried to drop each other on the final kick of the day, a small hill within the last 5km, but they stuck together and Pogačar outsprinted Masnada. Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) rounded out the podium as he outsprinted Primož Roglič.